One of the most fun, yet challenging, areas of a family dental practice or in family dentistry is helping kids view their visit as exciting instead of intimidating or even frightening.
If taking your kids to the family dentist feels like pulling teeth, you’re not alone. Some parents even feel– despite their best efforts – their kids were born being afraid of going to the dentist.
When going to a pediatric dentist or an office that specializes in family dentistry can still make some kids anxious, is there anything you can do to make it better?
But did you know that simply by taking age appropriate steps with your children’s dental care you help them create good habits? These habits will keep their teeth, gums, and mouth in good shape? And this means dental visits will always be much less painful, more beneficial, and less unappealing—for life!
Age 1 – The pediatric dentist or family dental visit they won’t remember but will likely never forget
Some parents are surprised to find out the latest recommendation is that kids have their first pediatric dentist or family dental visit by age 1! Yes, before they likely have many teeth at all! Kids are getting cavities earlier now and are getting more at those earlier ages than kids in the past.
Age 2-3 – Introduce tooth care as something “fun”!
When your kids are very young – as young as two – start making keeping their teeth clean fun! Prior to this time you may have been using a finger tooth “scrubber” to generally wipe teeth. When they have several teeth and good coordination, buy a small-size toothbrush with extremely soft bristles made for kids.
Supervise carefully but add some “kids’s toothpaste” (made especially for young children – no fluoride that could get swallowed) and make a game out of “brushing”. Don’t worry about any specific length of time at this point. Just get them accustomed to the motions of learning to care for their teeth.
It is especially often helpful if you brush your teeth side by side. If you’re comfortable with it, come up with a little brushing “song” to help ensure that your kid(s) brush for at least 30 – 60 seconds. At this age, when the child has finished their “brushing”, you will need to go ahead and do the “real brushing” afterwards.
Ages 3 – 4 – Let’s get real
This is the time when cavities start becoming more likely if the child shows signs they will be more likely to get cavities than others. Therefore, sugary snacks and drinks should definitely start to be limited at this point if they have not already been cut down. You will also want to get a toothbrush with a larger head and start to use a child’s toothpaste with fluoride, but just a little because there will still be a tendency for your child to swallow a bit here and there. Additionally, visits to your pediatric dentist or family dentist should become more comprehensive and he or she will likely want to get the initial set of x-rays as a baseline for future visits.
Ages 5 – 10 – Time to be regular
By these ages, your child should be going to his or her dentist regularly – ideally, every 6 months. This could also be the time when orthodontics start getting discussed—it’s much earlier than it used to be and there are things we can start pediatric orthodontics at younger ages than ever before.
The Teen Years
The best summary of teen dental care is to maintain the good dental habits you’ve started! Other important advice is to be encouraging, set a good example, and make sure there are always quality dental supplies (a good toothbrush, toothpaste, mouthwash with fluoride, and floss) always on hand. Also, limit the junk food and sugars in the house and talk to teens about the physical and aesthetic dangers and risks of smoking, dipping, and drinking (on the body and the teeth!). If orthodontics are needed but have not yet been started, the teen has a lot more choices than in the parent’s days! For example, Fastbraces are super quick and relatively painless. Teens love this option! Teeth whitening can be considered at this age too! And of course, don’t forget to work on any bad breath issues!
Just remember – your kids are little people who will be grow to be big people… with the same set of teeth (most likely!) they get at around 6 or so. Those teeth have to last forever!
It’s up to you to help get them on the road to good dental health in the best manner possible and hope they continue the good habits you – and their pediatric dentist or family dentist – has taught!
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